Released 1998 on Earache.
Steve Tucker - bass, vocals
Trey Azagthoth - guitars, keyboards, vocals
Pete Sandoval - percussion
This is probably the most contentious of the 8 albums Morbid Angel have released so far - their sixth, it was the first without long-time (and much loved) vocalist David Vincent, and is considered by many to be the point where they began to slide from the top of the death metal pile. Of the three Morbid Angel albums I own, however (the other two being Altars of Madness and Covenant), it is my favourite.
First point to address - the change of vocalist. Vincent was a big part of the old Morbid Angel, both playing bass and managing vocals, and it was never going to be easy for his replacement, Steve Tucker, to fill his place. I think the biggest point in Tucker's favour, is that he doesn't try to be Vincent. He doesn't wade into an established band and attempt to replicate their former vocalist, he starts out with his own style. The second point in his favour is that thankfully his own style doesn't suck. Like David Vincent before him, his vocals are not indecipherable; you can make out what he's barking out at you, and though his voice is slightly deeper and more gutteral than his predecessor, he fits the band remarkably well, so no worries there.
The other main point to bring up here is the number of tracks, and why there is such a number. 14 is quite numerous for a death metal album, where eight or ten is generally more usual, and, as you can probably tell from the track lengths, not every track here is a "proper" one. There's a fair amount of non-songs on here (five of the fourteen, in fact), but they're not quite filler - lyrically and conceptually, Formulas..
is a very big, ambitious album, and the tracks which fit this description are often driven by non-metal, sometimes almost tribal-sounding percussion, and Trey Azagthoth's spacey, expansive guitar, to fit the album's mood. Some of the lyrics are in Sumerian (the language of ancient Sumer, I think), and the English lyrics frequently reference ancient religion, mythology and deities. The upside of this is that when you're in the right state of mind, the album can hit you in just the right way (as it has me, once) and just seem right
, and at that time you'd be prepared to declare it the greatest album ever conceived, and demand that nations be enslaved in it's name. The downside is that unless you are in that right mood, the album basically often seems too broken up and bitty to enjoy properly.
Moving away from such airy considerations, fans of the older albums will be pleased to know that Pete Sandoval is still a machine; he plays quite a variety, with the non-song tracks here, and much of the death metal material is at a fairly fast pace, which I think suits him rather well, though I suppose it ends up a matter of personal preference. Trey's guitar too is at as high a level of greatness as it ever is, especially on the 9-minute centrepiece of the album (for me, anyway), Invocation of the Continual One
, which seems to be largely based around guitar (and on which he also tries his hand at vocals, and doesn't do too badly). I absolutely love his guitar tone, though I've read complaints against it before; "muddy" implies a bad production, which this doesn't have, but there is some kind of quality like that to it, and his often improvised solos are just kicking as
s all over the place.
Overall, this is probably my favourite Morbid Angel album, but the fact that it often feels too fractured stops it from getting a really high score. Besides, I've yet to hear their second album, Blessed Are the Sick
, by all accounts a masterpiece. Still, this is a great album - it has good cover art, for one, and like I said, when you're in the right mood for it, it's amazing. I think the main point is that I don't think Morbid Angel lost it here; they made it through the departure of a long-established vocalist without really missing a beat, and put out a fine album in the process.
Invocation of the Continual One
. As I said, for me it really is the centrepiece of the album, and various parts of the huge guitar workout that the track essentially is get stuck in my head for a long while any time I listen to (like now, for example). On the other hand, it is almost 10 minutes long, and so may not be the best track to be introduced to the album on. If you want something shorter, I'd suggest Nothing is Not
, possibly my favourite track after Invocation..
, which has the added bonus of memorable lyrics.